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Copyright on Campus: Copyright and Fair Use FAQs

A user-friendly guide to understanding copyright and fair use issues at Bennington College.

Copyright & Fair Use FAQs

Copyright & Fair Use FAQs

What is “intellectual property”?

When is something protected under copyright law?

Why is copyright compliance important?

What is Fair Use?

What constitutes permission?

How do I get permission to use something that is copyrighted?

What is the public domain?

How can I tell if something is public domain?

How do I attribute proper credit for this resource?

What is plagiarism?

What is Creative Commons?

How do I find images I can re-use?

How can I find audio material that I can re-use?

Can I scan this book?

Can I put an image on my website or in my presentation?

Can I use this song in my presentation?

Can I use a song from my iTunes library?

What can I post on Moodle?

Can I share articles I find in library databases?

In what ways can I use articles that I find in library databases?

Can I post this on my website?

Can I copy a DVD, an entire book, CD or other resource?

Can I copy works to put on reserve at the library?

Additional resources

 

What is “intellectual property”?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property, “refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en

 

When is something protected under copyright law?

Sections 102-105 of USC Title 17 describe the material to which copyright applies. In order to be protected an item must be:

        original work of author(s),

       "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," and

       perceivable, reproducable, "or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."

Works created after 1978 are copyrighted regardless of whether or not they have been published or contain a notice of copyright.

Copyright does not apply to facts, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries. But be aware that these may be protected by patent, trademark, or trade secret law. See U. S. Copyright Office: What Does Copyright Protect? for more examples.

 

Why is copyright compliance important?

Copyright restrictions exist to protect the rights of creators of intellectual property.  In the United States, copyright restrictions are a matter of federal law.  Failure to comply with these laws can result in the pursuit of legal action on the part of the author or creator.

 

What is Fair Use?

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.  On the college campus, when we refer to fair use, most often we are describing the user's rights to reproduce portions of copyrighted works.  Fair use restrictions provide limitations to the current United States copyright, patent, trademark and trade secret laws (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/).  Use of intellectual property that is determined to be fair is protected from legal liability under these laws.  Determining whether fair use applies to a given circumstance can be a complex process.  There are no concrete definitions of fair use.  Instead, determining whether fair use applies relies on four main factors (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107):

      1.           Purpose and character of the use (including educational vs. non-educational use and for-profit vs. not-for-profit use)

      2.           Nature of the work being used

      3.           Amount of the work that is used

      4.           Effect on the market value of the work that is used

Categorizing the use of a source as a fair use depends on the agreement of all four factors, not just one or a combination of them.  There are a number of checklists available to help you determine whether your intended use of copyrighted material is considered fair. 

 

What constitutes permission?

Obtaining permission for use of a copyrighted work may be a complex and time-consuming process.  If it is determined that a given use of a copyrighted work does not fall within Fair Use guidelines, one must locate the holder of the copyright.  If the copyright holder is deceased, permission must be obtained from the executor of the holder’s estate.  Once located, one should provide a detailed description of the nature and purpose of the intended use.  The holder must provide written permission for use or reproduction.  Read more about seeking permission.

In addition, one may request a search of registered copyrighted works from the U.S. Copyright Office or obtain permission via the Copyright Clearance Center.

 

How do I get permission to use something that is copyrighted?

You may contact the author or publisher for written permission, or consult the Copyright Clearance Center.  Library staff can assist with finding contact information.

 

What is the public domain?

Any material for which copyright has expired or to which copyright never applied (see: When is something protected under copyright law?) is considered to be in the public domain. Items in the public domain may be freely used and republished. Keep in mind however, that plagiarism is a separate issue and that it is always unethical to quote, paraphrase, or copy without citing the source. Also, keep in mind that copyright may apply to only a portion of a work. For example, the text of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales are in the public domain, however a reprint with new illustrations would carry copyright for the illustrations.  Likewise, accompanying analytical essays of Shakespeare's plays would be copyrighted, while the plays themselves are public domain.

 

How can I tell if something is public domain?

Determining whether something is in the public domain requires consideration of a number of factors, including: date of publication; place of publication; presence of copyright notice; copyright renewal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain).  Please see Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, by Peter Hirtle of Cornell University for more information.

 

How do I attribute proper credit for this resource?

In general, you should credit the creator of a resource in the manner that he or she specifies.  When providing credit to a published article or book, it is sufficient to follow the rules specified by established citation style guides (such as those used by the American Psychological Association, Modern Language Association, etc.).

In some cases, the creator of a resource may include explicit directions for properly citing his or her intellectual property.  If this is not the case, it is appropriate to ask the creator how he or she would like to be cited when requesting permission to use the material.

 

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the representation of someone else‘s words, ideas, or data as one‘s own work. Plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.  When a student submits work for credit that includes the words, ideas, or data of others, the source of that information must be acknowledged through complete, accurate, and specific footnote references, and, if verbatim statements are included, through quotation marks as well.

 

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation that allows intellectual property creators to select their own license terms.  This process allows creators to determine which uses others will be able to make of their intellectual property.  Some licenses provide for very little allowable uses, while others provide a great deal.  Property creators can generate HTML license statements for use on websites and online repositories.  Creative Commons licenses can be applied to music, images, written materials, and other types of intellectual property.

 

How do I find images I can re-use?

One way to find resources that may be reused is to search for items that have associated Creative Commons licenses.  To locate these materials, visit Creative Commons.  Websites such as iStockphoto and Stock.xchng  are possible sources for locating royalty-free images.

It is also possible to search for re-usable images from a Google or Flickr image search.  To do such an image search from Google, click the ‘Advanced Image search’ link to the right of the search bar.  There you will be able to select multiple criteria to define your search.  The next to last field is titled “Usage rights”.  Select, “labeled for re-use’ from the drop-down on the right.  Any images that are returned in your search will be available for you to re-use.  Similarly, to search for re-usable images in Flickr, you can click the “Advanced Search” link next to the search bar. At the bottom of that page is a Creative Commons section. Click the check box next to the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” option.  Any images returned in your search will be licensed for re-use.                                            

In addition, certain images in ARTstor are identified as “Images for Academic Publishing (IAP).”  These images are specifically designated as items that can be used for publication.  Learn more about Images for Academic Publishing.

 

How can I find audio material that I can re-use?

Some resources for finding creative commons licensed music and sounds are:

●             Creative Commons - http://www.creativecommons.org

●             Jamendo - http://www.jamendo.com/en/

●             The Freesound Project - http://www.freesound.org/

The first two sites will allow you to find music that you can include in a project.  They allow you to search by keyword, listen to and download the music that you choose.  The third site provides sound samples, not songs, for you to add to a project.  This is helpful if you are looking for a particular background noise.

 

Can I scan this book?

Scanning or copying a book or journal article is considered reproduction and is consequently subject to copyright restrictions.  Follow Fair Use guidelines to determine if the intended use is allowable.  Fair Use will likely be determined by the amount copied or scanned and whether the reproduction is intended for private study or wider distribution.

 

Can I put an image on my website or in my presentation?

Like other forms of intellectual content, images are subject to rights protection.  In general, it is okay to use an image in a presentation that is to be delivered in class.  However, you must be sure to provide appropriate credit for the image.  Be sure to acknowledge the image source, creator, and other relevant information.

Additional steps may be necessary to secure rights to display an image in a paper or presentation that is to be made more widely available (e.g.: in a published journal or on a website).  To avoid any legal issues, it is good practice to contact the image’s original creator and explain your intended use.  Ask the creator to supply written permission to use his or her image.  Also, inquire about the method in which he or she would like to be credited in your work.  Follow the procedure outlined in What constitutes permission.

Some images are free of copyright.  To locate such images, try using the “Find” feature at Creative Commons.  Other sources include iStockphoto.  It is also possible to search for re-usable images from a Google or Flickr image search.  To do such an image search from Google, click the ‘Advanced Image search’ link to the right of the search bar.  There you will be able to select multiple criteria to define your search.  The next to last field is titled “Usage rights”.  Select, “labeled for re-use” from the drop-down on the right.  Any images that are returned in your search will be available for you to re-use.  Similarly, to search for re-usable images in Flickr, you can click the “Advanced Search” link next to the search bar. At the bottom of that page is a Creative Commons section. Click the check box next to the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” option.  Any images returned in your search will be licensed for re-use.

 

Can I use this song in my presentation?

If the song has been licensed for re-use (creative commons) then you are free to use the song in the manner specified within the license.  Some licenses permit using a song for commercial purposes, some do not.  Other licenses permit the re-mixing or adaptation of the song.  You will need to examine the license to determine what uses have been granted by the owner of the song.

 

Can I use a song from my iTunes library?

Buying a song from the iTunes store does not give you the rights to use the song as you choose.  When you purchase a song from the iTunes store or download an album from a CD you purchased, you have only paid to be able to play/listen to a song on any device you choose.  You have not paid for the rights to re-use, remix or otherwise edit that song.

 

What can I post on Moodle?

Any material that could be classified as a fair use can be posted on Moodle.  This includes excerpts from books, articles, audio recordings and video recordings.  Any material that is classified as public domain can be posted on Moodle.  An effort should be made to link to resources when possible rather than posting an actual file.  When using articles found in library subscription databases such as JSTOR and Academic Search Premier, post a link to the article in the database rather than the PDF or scanned copy.  Posting a link to the article allows library staff to accurately track usage of particular publications and databases.  Accurate usage statistics are important to resource renewal decisions.

 

Can I share articles I find in library databases?

You may share articles from library databases with others associated with the college.  In most cases, you may also share these articles with professional colleagues at other institutions for use in scholarly pursuits.  This is known as “scholarly sharing”.  To determine whether scholarly sharing is allowed, look for Terms and Conditions statements associated with the database you are using. 

 

In what ways can I use articles that I find in library databases?

Most library databases are licensed resources.  Use of the items found in these databases is governed by the terms found in these licenses.  Although the license for each database is different, the following uses are generally acceptable (provided the use falls under Fair Use guidelines):

●             Adding an article to library reserves

●             Posting a link to an article in Moodle

●             Printing a single copy of an article for personal research

●             Saving a single copy of an article for personal research

 

The following uses are generally prohibited without express written permission from the publisher:

●             Printing an entire issue of a given journal

●             Posting a copy of an article to a website that is widely available to the public

●             Including an article in a course packet to be sold

●             Printing several copies of an article for distribution outside of a classroom environment

 

Can I post this on my website?

Whether or not it would be allowable for you to post a source (image, audio, excerpt) depends on many factors.  The first criteria would be to determine if your website, or the location that you will place the source, is protected by a password or if it is open to the public.  Placing a source in a website or other location that requires authentication (username and password) leans toward being a fair use.  The opposite would also be the case.  If a source has been licensed for re-use, it is agreeable to use the source as long as the criteria for attribution contained in the license have been met.  Examine the license to determine how the creator would like to be attributed.  In any instance consider each of the “four factors” to determine if a use is fair.

 

Can I copy a DVD, an entire book, CD or other resource?

In general, works should not be copied in their entirety.  Fair use guidelines for copyrighted works may apply when:

●             using of a small part of a work

●             keeping a copy for a short time

●             attempts to purchase the item are unsuccessful

●             access to a work is restricted to a specific class (e.g. password protected)

 

Can I copy works to put on reserve at the library?

The library applies fair use principles when making materials available on reserve, whether print or online.  All reserve materials are either library-owned or provided by the faculty member.  Copying a small portion of a work and making that copy available for the duration of the course is generally considered acceptable.

 

For additional information, please consult the following online resources:

 ·        http://dirc.vraweb.org/ -- A tool to help users decide whether a digital image is protected by copyright and whether the image can be used for a number of purposes.

·        http://www.copyright.gov/title17/ -- A complete online version of U.S. Copyright Law.

·        http://www.copyright.gov/ -- Official website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

·        http://www.copyright.com/ -- Official website of the Copyright Clearance Center.

·        http://www.copyright.com/Services/copyrightoncampus/ -- The Campus Guide to Copyright Compliance for Academic Institutions (from the Copyright Clearance Center).

·        www.knowyourcopyrights.org -- This website has been created to provide resources on copyright and fair use and how to communicate that information to others.  They published a brochure that is free to download from here.